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Syriac Sources for 
Seventh- Century History 

s. P. BROCK 

In view of the paucity of other sources for this century, so 
momentous in the history of the Near East, the Syriac materials 
take on a particular importance for both Byzantine and Islamic 
historians. While some of these sources, such as Michael's 
Chronicle, arc well known to all, others lie as yet unexploited and 
ignored. The purpose of the present article is to collect together 
in convenient form details of all the main Syriac sources 
available for the seventh century, listing standard editions, 
translations and the more important discussions. 1 Fuller 
information on authors and secondary literature can readily be 
found by reference to the following works: A. Baumstark, 
Geschichte der syrischen Literatur (Bonn, 1922); I. Ortiz de Urbina, 
Patrologia Syriaca, 2nd ed. (Rome, 1965); C. Moss, Catalogue of 
Syriac Printed Books and Related Literature in the British Museum 
(London, 1962); S. P. Brock, 'Syriac Studies 1960-1970: a 
classified bibliography', Parole de I'Orient, IV (1973), 393 _ 4 6 5- 
For the topographical history ol the area now covered by Iraq, 
J. M. Fiey's Assyrie chretienne, 3 vols. (Beirut, 1965-8), is an 
invaluable compendium. 

t. Brief surveys of the Syriac sources for this period will be found in W. 
Hagc, Die syrisdi-jakobitische Kirche in friihidamhehsr Zeit (Wiesbaden, 1966), pp. 
4-7, and J. M. Fiey, Jalmis pour une histoire de i'eglue en Iraq (CSCO Subsidia 36 
[Louvain, 1970]), pp. 14-31. 



The chronicles are arranged below in two sections: West Syrian 
(of Syrian Orthodox and Maronite provenance, nos. i-iz) and 
East Syrian (Nestorian, nos. 13-15), and within each section the 
entries arc in chronological order. 

Little work has been done so Far on analysing the sources of 
the various Syriac chronicles and studying their relationship to 
the Byzantine ones. The following provide some initial 
guidelines: E. W. Brooks, 'The sources of Theophancs and the 
Syriac Chroniclers', BZ, XV {1906), 578-87; N. Pigulevskaya, 
'Thcophanes' "Chronographia" and the Syrian Chronicles', 
JOBG, XVI (1967), 55-60; A. S. Proudfoot, 'The sources of 
Theophanes for tbc Heraclian Dynasty', B, XLIV (1974), 
367-439. A short survey of the contribution of the Syriac 
chronicles to Islamic history will be found in J. B. Segal, 'Syriac 
chronicles as source material for the history of Islamic peoples', 
in Historians of the Middle East, ed. B. Lewis and P. M. Holt 
(London, 1962), pp. 246—58. 

West Syrian Chronicles 1 

( 1 ) Fragment on the Arab invasions 

A very untidy hand has inserted a (contemporary?) account of 
the Arab invasion of Palestine on the fly-leaf of a sixth-century 
Gospel manuscript (BM. Add. 14461, fol. 1). The text is 
unfortunately totally illegible in places. 

Edition: E. W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, II (CSCO, Scr. Syri 3 
[Louvain, 1904]), p. 75. 

Translations: Latin in Brooks, op. cit., II {CSCO Scr. Syri 4 
[Louvain, 1904]), p. 60; Syriac text, German translation and 
commentary in T. Noldeke, 'Zur Geschichte der Araber im 1 
Jh. d. H. aus syrischen Quellen', ZDMG, XXIX ( 1875), 76-82. 

(a) 'Maronite chronicle' 

Preserved in BM Add. 17216, fols. 2-14, of the eighth or ninth 

century, this chronicle was composed in the mid 660s by a 

3. Page numbers of editions and translations refer to the portion of the 
work dealing with the seventh century. 


Chalcedonian. The folios covering the first half of the seventh 
century have been lost, and the surviving narrative opens with 
the war between 'Ali and Mu' awiya. 

Edition: E. W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, II [CSCO Scr. Syri 3 
[Louvain, 1904D, pp. 69-74. 

Translations: Latin in J. B. Chabot, Chronica Minora, II (CSCO Scr. 
Syri 4 [Louvain, 1904]), pp. 54~7; German translation and 
commentary in T. Noldeke, op. cit., ZDMG, XXIX (1875), 
82-98; French in F. Nau, 'Opuscules maronites', ROC, IV 
(1899), 322-8. 

(3) Jacob ofEdessa, Chronicle 

From the few fragments that remain it would appear that the 
plan of Jacob's Chronicle followed that of Eusebius', which it was 
designed to continue, up to 692 (an unknown writer prolonged 
it to 7 1 0). Only a small portion ofthe work survives, in BM. Add. 
14685, fols. 1-23, and little of this covers the seventh century. 

Edition: E. W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, III (CSCO Scr. Syri 5 

[Louvain, 1905D, pp. 324-7. 
Translations: Latin in Brooks, op. cit.. Ill (CSCO Scr. Syri 6 

[Louvain, 1905D, pp. 248-55; English translation in Brooks, 

'The Chronological Canon of James ofEdessa', ZDMG, LI 1 1 

(1899), 261-327, and LIV (1900), 100-2. 

(4) List of Arab kings 

A short list of 'Arab kings', from Mohammed to Walid, giving 
the length of their reigns, is to be found in BM. Add. 17193, fol- 
17 (dated 874). 

Edition:]. P. N. Land, Anecdota Syriaca, II (Leiden, 1868), p. 11 

(of Addenda). 
Translation: French in F. NauJ/4, 11 sen, V( 1915), 226 (note 1). 

(5) Anonymous chronicle, ad annum 724 

Also referred to in older literature as the Liber Calipharum, this 
world chronicle is preserved in BM. Add. 14643, fols. 1-57, of 
the eighth century. Brief entries (not always in chronological 
order) arc to be found for the following years (Selcucid era): a.c. 
914, 915, 920, 921, 922, 924, 925, 929, 930, 934, 938, 939, 940, 


945. 947' At the end is a brief life of Mohammed and a list of 
Arab kings from Mohammed to Yezid II, with the lengths of 
their reigns. 

Edition: E. W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, II (CSCO Scr. Syri 3 

[Louvain, 1904]), pp. 139, 145-8, 155. 
Translation: Latin in J. B. Chabot, Chronica Minora, II {CSCO Scr. 

Syri 4 [Louvain, 1904]), pp. 108,112-14, iig. 3 

(6) Anonymous chronicle, ad annum jj^, 

As far as the seventh century is concerned this chronicle contains 

little more than a list of Arab kings, with the lengths of their 

reigns. It survives in BM. Add. 14683, fols. 93— 10a, of the tenth 


Edition: E. W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, III (CSCO Scr. Syri 5 

[Louvain, 1905]), p. 348. 
Translation: Latin in Brooks, op. cit., Ill (CSCO Scr. Syri 6 

[Louvain, 1905]), pp. 274-5. 

(7) Ps. Dionysius ofTcllmahre, Chronicle 

The false attribution of this anonymous chronicle, compiled in 
Tur Abdin c. 775, to the Patriarch Dionysius ofTcllmahre (died 
845) goes back to Asscmani. The work is preserved as the upper 
text of the palimpsest Vat. syr. 162 ( + BM. Add. 14665, fols. 
1—7), of the late ninth century. -1 Part IV covers the seventh and 
eighth centuries, but for the seventh the entries are very brief. 

Edition: J. B. Chabot, Incerti auctoris chronicon pseudo-Dionysianum 
vulgo dictum, II (CSCO Scr. Syri 53 [Louvain, 1933]), pp. 

Translation: Chabot earlier provided an edition with French 
translation of just the Fourth Part: Chronique de Denys de Tell- 
Mahre, quatrieme partie, (Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Hautes 
Etudes, fasc. 1 12 [Paris 1895]), pp. 4-1 1. 

3. This edition and translation supersedes thai of J. P. N. Land, Anecdota 
Syriaca, (Leiden, iSCs), pp. 1—24, 103-22. 

4. The underlying Creek text (LXX) was edited by E. Tisserant, Codex 
Zuqninemis rrscriptus Veteris Testamerili (Studi eTcsti, 23 [Rome, 1 91 1 )), Tisserant 
gives a good description of the manuscript on pp. v-xxxii. 


(8) Anonymous chronicle, ad annum 819 

This contains short entries for the following years (Seleucid era) : 
a.g. 912, 913, 916, 926, 932, 938, 942, 945, 947. 954. 955. 960, 
967, 971. 97 6 . 990. 99i. 994. 996, 999. 1006, 1008, 1009, 1010, 
1011). The chronicle was written in Tur Abdin and survives in a 
local manuscript of the ninth century. 

Edition: A. Barsaum, Chronicon Anonymum ad annum 819 pertinens 
(CSCO Scr. Syri 36 [Louvain, 1920]), pp. 10-13. 

Translation: Latin in J. B. Chabot, Anonymi auctoris Chronicon ad 
AC 1234 pertinens, J. Praemissum est Chronicon anonymum ad AD 
819 pertinens, (CSCO Scr. Syri 56 [Louvain, 1937]), pp. 6-9. 

(9) Anonymous chronicle, ad annum 846 

This world chronicle, which is preserved in BM. Add. 14642, 
fols. 1-36, of the tenth century, relies heavily on (8). The folios 
covering the seventh century have mostly been lost, and the only 
surviving entries are for the following years (Seleucid era): a.g. 
912, 914, 921, 990, 991, 992, 994, 995, 996, ggg, 1006, 1008, 

Edition: E. W. Brooks, Chronica Minora, II (CSCO Scr. Syri 3 

[Louvain, 1904]), pp. 230—2. 
Translations: Latin in J. B. Chabot, Chronica Minora, II (CSCO Scr. 

Syri 4 [Louvain, 1904]), pp. 174-6; English (also with Syriac 

text} in Brooks, 'A Syriac chronicle of the year 846', ZDMG, LI 

(1897), 569-88.* 

(10) Michael the Syrian (died 1 199), Chronicle 

This is much the fullest and the most important of the Syriac 
chronicles. The seventh century is covered by Books 
X.xxiv-XI.xvii. For this period Michael gives as his main sources 
Jacob ofEdessa, John of Litarba, Dionysius ofTellmahre and 
Ignatius of Melitenc. A manuscript, dated 1598, of the Syriac 
text of this massive work was only discovered in 1889 in Urfa 
(Edessa). It is a transcript of this in facsimile that Chabot 
published, along with a French translation and index of names. 

5. Cf. H. Buk, 'Zur aitestenchristlichenChronographie des Islam', BZ, XIV 
(1905). 533-5- 


There is also an Arabic translation of the Chronicle 6 and an 

abbreviated version in Armenian, made in 1248. 7 

Edition and translation: J . B. Chabot, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, 4 

vols. (Paris, 1899-1924; reprinted Brussels, 1963), II, pp. 

374-477 (translation), IV, pp. 387-449 (text). 8 

(11} Anonymous chronicle, ad annum 1234 

Next to Michael's Chronicle this world chronicle (sometimes 
referred to as the 'Anonymous of Edessa') contains much the 
most detailed account of events in the seventh century that is 
available in Syriac. It is largely independent of Michael's work, 
and the lost chronicle of Dionysius of Teilmahre appears to be 
one of the compiler's main sources for this period. The text is 
preserved in a unique manuscript (perhaps of the fourteenth 
century) that was in private hands in Constantinople at the 
beginning of the century. 

Edition:]. B. Chabot, Chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinent, I 
[CSCO Scr. Syri 36 [Louvain, 1920]), pp. 217-97 (cf. II, 
260-3). 5 

Translation: Latin in Chabot, op. cit., I (CSCO Scr. Syri 56 
[Louvain, 1937D, pp. 171-231. Extracts, covering the seventh 
century, in Russian translation will be found in N. 
Pigulevskaya, Vizantija i Iran na rubeze VI i VII vekov (Moscow, 
1946), pp. 252-8g. l(l 

(12) Barhebraeus (died 1286), Chronicle 

This long- famous work is divided into two parts, usually known 

6. See Chabot, Chronique, I, pp. xliii-1, who states that it must have been 
made from the Urfa manuscript. 

7. See Chabot, Chronique, I, pp. 1-Ii; cf also F. Haasc, 'Die armenischc 
Rezension der syrischen Chronik Michaels des Grossen', OC, n.s. V (1915), 
6o-8s, a 7 1-84. There is a French translation by V. Langlois, Chronique de Michel 
le Grand, traduite pour la premiere fits sur la version armenienne du pretre Islwk 
(Venice, 18G6), and another, covering the years 5 7 3-71 7, by E. Dulaurierin,/^, 
4ser.,XII (1848), 281-334, and XIII (1849), 315-76. 

8. Cf. H. Gelzcr, 'Das Geschichtswerk Mar Michael des Grossen', in Sexlus 
Julius Africanus und die byzanlinische Chronographie, II (Leipzig, 1 8g8), pp. 43 1-58. 

g. This replaces the older (partial) edition by I. Rahmani, Chronicon civile el 
ecclesiastkum (Charfct, 1904). 

10. There is a good introduction, and index to both volumes, in the recent 
French translation of volume II by A. Abouna and J. M. Fiey (Scr. Syri 154 
[Louvain, 1974]). 


under the titles Chronicon syriacum (secular history) and Chronicon 
ecclesiastkum (church history). The first part, up to 1 1 93, is largely 
a resume of Michael's Chronicle, although Barhebraeus does 
sometimes have independent value. The second part is unique 
among Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) chronicles in that it also 
covers the history of the Nestorian patriarchs (for this 
Barhebraeus draws on Nestorian sources, in particular the 
twelfth-century Mari ibn Suleiman). Both parts survive in a 
number of manuscripts. 

(a) Chronicon syriacum 

Editions: P. Bedjan, Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Syriacum. (Paris, 
1890), pp. 93-112. There is an older, and less satisfactory, 
edition (with a Latin translation) by P. J. Bruns and G. G. 
Kirsch, Gregorii Abulpharagii sive Bar-Hebraei Chronicon Syriacum 
e codicibus Bodleianis, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1789). 

Translations: English in E. A. W. Budge, The Chronography of 
' Barhebraeus, being the first part of his political history of the world,^ 2 
vols. {Oxford, 1932) I, pp. 89-105 (vol. 2 contains a facsimile 
of Bodley, Hunt. 52) ; n Latin in Bruns and Kirsch, op. cit. 

Towards the end of his life Barhebraeus wrote an abridged 
version of his Chronicle in Arabic under the title 'History of the 
Dynasties'. This was edited, with a Latin translation, by E. 
Pococke (Oxford, 1663), and again (without translation) by A. 
Salhani (Beirut, 1890). 

(b) Chronicon ecclesiastkum 

Edition and (Latin) translation: J. B. Abbeloos and T.J. Lamy, 
Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Ecclesiastkum, 2 vols. (Louvain, 
1872, 1877), I, cols. 261-96 (West Syrian patriarchs), II, cols. 
107-50 (West Syrian maphrians and East Syrian patriarchs). 

East Syrian chronicles 

(13) Anonymous chronicle on the end of the Sassanids 
This important chronicle covers the last hair-century of Sassanid 
rule, and was composed between 670 and 680, perhaps in 
Khuzistan (whence it is sometimes referred to as the 'Khuzistan 

ii. A Turkish translation of Budge's English version was published in 
Ankara ( 8945/50). 


chronicle'). The printed text is based on Borgia syr. 82, a 
modern copy dSgi) of an old manuscript preserved in the Near 
East (probably Alqosh 169 of the fourteenth century). 12 

Edition: I. Guidi, Chronica Minora, I [CSCO Scr. Syri 1 [Louvain, 

1903]), pp« 15-39- 
Translations: Latin in Guidi, op. cit., I {CSCO Scr. Syri 2 [Louvain, 
1903]}, pp. 13—32 ; German, with commentary, inT. Noldekc, 
Die von Guidi herausgegebenc syrische Chronik ubersetzt ' und 
cornmentiert {Silzungsberichte dcr Akad. der Wiss., Phil. -hist. CL, B 
CXXVIIIfVienna 1893]). 

(14) John of Phenek, Rish melle 

The last book ofjohn's summary of world history deals with the 
late seventh century, during the last decade of which the work 
was evidently written. The product of north Mesopotamia, it 
contains an account of events in the years following the death of 
Mu'awiya (68o). At the end the work takes on an apocalyptic 

Edition: A. Mingana, Sources syriaques, I (Leipzig, 1907), pp. 

Translations: French (of Book XV only) in Mingana, op. cit., pp. 
17a =: — g 7 ::: (with index of names). A German translation of 
extracts from the end of Book XIV and from Book XV, 
concerning the author's reactions to the Arab invasions, will 
be found in R. Abramowski, Dionysius von Tellmahre 
(Abhandlungcn fur die Kunde cles Morgenlandes, XXV. 2 
[Leipzig 1940D, pp. 5-8. 13 

(15) EliasofNisibis, Opus chronologicum 

Bishop of Nisibis for nearly half a century from 1002, Eliasis the 
only major Nestorian chronographer to survive in Syriac. The 
work, which is in two parts, runs to 1018; the first part contains 
short entries under each year (sometimes with the source 

is. For other manuscripts see S. P. Brock, 'Notes on some texts in the 
Mingana Collection', Journal of Semitic Studies, XIV (1969), asi, 

13. For the manuscript tratiitionsecT.Jan.sma, 'Projetd'editionduKetaba 
tie Resh Melle de Jean bar Pcnkaye*, L'Orient Syrien, VII! {1963], 87-106. An 
analysis of Books XIII-XV will be found in A. Scher, 'Notice sur la vie et les 
oeuvres de Yohannan bar Penkaye',7/1, 10 scr., X (1907), 161-78. Cf. also P. 
Crone and M. Cook, Hagarism (Cambridge, 1976). 


indicated), while the second contains calendrical tables. The 
work is bilingual, in Arabic as well as in Syriac, and survives m 
an autograph dated 1019 (BM Add. 7197)- 
Edition: E. W. Brooks, Eliae metropolitae Nisibeni Opus 
I Chronologicum pars prior [CSCO Scr. Syri 21 [Louvian, 1910]), 

pp. 124-55. 
Translations: Latin in Brooks, op. cit. {CSCO Scr. Syn 23 
[Louvain, 1910J), pp. 60-75. A German translation (with 
Syriac and Arabic text) of the section in Part I covering the 
Islamic period is to be found in F. Baethgen, Fragmente 
synschcr und arabischer Historiker (Abhandlungen fur die Kunde 
des Morgenlandes, VIII. 3 [Leipzig 1884]) (with an index of 
names). French translation in L. Delaporte, Chronographie de 
Mar Elie bar Sinaya, metropolite de Nisibe (Bibliothequc de 
l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes, fasc. 181, Paris 1910) (with an 
index of names). 

Lost works 

Among the lost historical works in Syriac that covered the 

seventh century the following might be mentioned : 

John oJLitarba 

A younger contemporary of Jacob of Edessa, his chronicle was 

used as a source by Michael. 

Dionysius of Tellmahre 

Only one fragment 14 of the genuine work of Dionysius 15 survives 
independently, but large portions have been taken over and 
incorporated into their own works by Michael, the anonymous 
chronicler ad annum 1234 and Barhebraeus. See especially R. 
Abramowski, Dionysius von Tellmahre: Jakobitischer Patriarch von 
818-845 (Abhandlungen far die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 
XXV. 2 [Leipzig, 1940]). 

Daniel bar Mariam (seventh century) 

It has often been assumed, on not very good grounds, that 
Daniel's lost Ecclesiastical History was one of the main sources ol 
14 Published by Abramowski, Dionysius von Tellmahre, pp. 138-4.2 (with 
German translation) and by E. W. Brooks in CSCO Scr. Syri 39 (Louvain, 
1921), pp. 219-24 (Laun translation in Scr. Syri 42 [Louvain, 1924I). 
15. Originally covering a.d. 582-842. 


tlic Arabic Chronicle of Seert (covering the years 251-422, 
484-65o}, IB See E. Degcn, 'Daniel bar Maryam, ein 
nestorianische Kirchen historiker', OC, LI I {1968), 45-80, and 
'Die Kirchengeschichte cles Daniel bar Maryam — cine Quelle 
der Chronik von Se'en', ZDMG Supplement, I. 2 (1969), 

Jesusdenah', Melanges d'archeologie el d'histoire, XVI (1896), 
1-79, and P. Bedjan, Liber superiorum (Paris, igoi), pp. 

Translations: French in Chabot, op. cit., 225-91 (with index of 

names). There is also an Arabic translation by P. Cheikho 
(Mosul, 1 939)- 20 


All entries in this section are of East Syrian (Nestorian) 
provenance. * 

( 1 ) History of the monastery of Beth Qoqa 

This local monastic history, composed at the monastery of Beth 
Qpqa" about 820, covers the seventh and eighth centuries, 
beginning with Sabrisho' (died 650), the founder of the 
monastery. The published text is based on two seventeenth- 
century manuscripts preserved in Iraq. 

Edition and French translation: A. Mingana, Sources syriaques, I 
{Lcip/.ig, 1907), pp. 171-220 (text), 221-71 (translation and 
index of names). 18 

(2) Isho'dnah, Liber Castitatis 

This ninth-century work contains 140 short biographical 
notices of monastic figures of N. Iraq, several ofwhom lived in 
the seventh century. Isho'dnah also wrote an Ecclesiastical 
History; this is usually considered to be lost, apart from a few 
citations in later writers, but according to P. Nautin it in fact 
survives in Arabic translation as the Chronicle ofSeert.™ 

Editions: J. B. Chabot, 'Livrc de chastete compose par 

16. The section covering the seventh century is published by A. Scher, in 
Paralogia Orientalis, XIII (Paris, 1919), pp. 435-G39 (Index inj. M. Fiey, 'Table 
des noms propres de la seconde panie de la Chronique de Seen', Melanges de 
I'Universite Saint Joseph, XLII (ig66), 201-18). On this chronicle, see also under 
II (2) below. 

1 7. Cr. Fiey. Aisyrie chretienne, I, pp. 130-7. 

18. Cf. A. Scher, 'Analyse de I'histoire du couvent dc Sabrisho de Beith 
Qpqa", ROC, 2 ser., I(igo6), 187-97; also Fiey, Assyrie chretienne, I, pp. 137-52. 

19. 'L'auteur de la chronique de Seert: Ishodcnah dc Basra', Revue de 
i'histoire des Religions, CLXXXVI {1974), 1 13-36. Cf. note 16. 


(3) Thomas of Marga, Liber Superiorum 

Thomas, who flourished in the mid- ninth century, was a monk 
of the famous monastery of Beth 'Abe in N. Iraq, 21 later 
becoming bishop of Marga, in Adiabene (he is not to be 
identified with Thomas, metropolitan of Beth Garmai, pace 
Assemani). He is the author of two monastic histories, the History 
of the monastery of Rabban Cyprian (in Birta) and the Book of 
Superiors, concerned with his own monastery of Beth 'Abe. 22 
Were it not for one or two passing references, the reader would 
be left totally unaware that Thomas was writing under Islamic 

Editions: E. A. W. Budge, The Book of Governors, I (London, 1893), 
and P. Bedjan, Liber Superiorum seu Historia Monasleriorum 
auctore Thoma episcopo Margensi (Paris, 1901 ). 

Translations: English in Budge, op. cit., Vol. II (with index of 
names; Budge's topographical notes in this volume are 
unreliable); there is also an Arabic translation, with good 
notes and index, by A. Abuna, Kitabal-ru'asa' {Mosul, 1966). 23 


Nos. 1-3 are of Syrian Orthodox provenance, no. 4 is Maronite 
and nos. 5-10 are East Syrian (Nestorian). 

20. Cf. J. M. Fiey, 'Isho 'denah, metropolite de Basraet son ceuvre', L'Orient 
Syricn, XI (1966), 431—50. 

21. Cf. Fiey, Assyrie chretienne, I, pp. 236-48. 

22. In both printed editions the two works have been run together and 
placed in the wrong order; the earlier History 0/ the monastery of R. Cyprian 
appears as Book VI, while the Rook of Superiors features as Books I-V in the 

23. Cf. J. M. Fiey, 'Thomas de Marga; notule de litterature syriaque', Le 
Museon, LXXVIII (1956), 361-6. 



{ l) Athanasius the camel driver (died 63 1 ) 

Athanasius I was Patriarch of Antioch From 595-631. The 

acephalous life is a product of the famous monaster)' of 

Qenneshrc, and is preserved in Berlin (Sachau) MS. 315 of 1481. 

The surviving portion is mainly concerned with encounters with 


Edition and French translation: F. Nau, 'Fragments sur le 
monastere de Qenneshre', Actes du XlVe congres international des 
orientalistes, Alger igo$ (Paris, 1907), 76-134. 

(2) Marutlta o/Tagrit (died 649) 

The life of Marutha, metropolitan of Tagrit, was written by his 
successor to the episcopal throne, Denha, and is preserved in 
BM. Add. 1 4645 of 936. There are very few references to political 
events, and the main interest of the life lies in the information it 
gives about the expansion of the Syrian Orthodox church in 
north east Mesopotamia in the early seventh century. 

Edition and French translation: F. Nau in Patrologia Orientalis, III 
(Paris, 1909), pp. 52-96. 

(3) Mar Gabriel oJQartmin (died 667) 

Gabriel was bishop of the famous monastery, still named after 
him, situated near Qartmin, some 20 kilometres east of Midyat 
in Tur Abdin. Only extracts oT his life, preserved in BM. Add. 
1 7265, have so far been published. 

Edition and French translation: F. Nau, 'Notice historique sur Ic 
monastere dc Qartamin', Actes du XlVe congres international des 
orient.ali.stes, Alger 190s (Paris, 1907), 19-31 (translation), 
62-75 (text). A further extract with French translation is given 
by Nau in J A, 1 1 ser., V (1915). 272-5. 

(4) Maximus the Confessor 

This life, incomplete at the end, is preserved in BM. Add. 7192 of 
the late seventh or eighth century. The author is a monothelete 
bishop, George, originating from Reshaina, who is implicitly 
described as a 'Maronitc' in the Syrian Orthodox chronicle ad 
annum 1 234. The life contains much new information about the 
dyothelete/monothelete controversy. 


Edition and English translations (with commentary): S. P. Brock, 'An 
early Syriac life of Maximus the Confessor', AB, XCI (1973), 
299-346. u 

(5) The Emperor Maurice 

A brief history oTthe 'holy Maurice, emperor of the Romans' 
was published by Nau from a Nestorian manuscript, 25 Paris syr. 
309, of 1869. It is almost entirely concerned with the revolt of 
Phokas and Maurice's death. 

Edition and French translation: F. Nau in Patrologia Orientalis, V 
(Paris, 1910), pp. 773-778- 

(6) Sabrisho' (died 604) 

The life of this Nestorian patriarch was written by a younger 
contemporary, Peter the Solitary. The work includes an account 
of the conversion of the Lakhmid Na'man to (Nestorian) 

Edition: P. Bedjan, Histoire de Mar Jabalaha, de trots autres 
patriarches, d'un pretre el de deux autres laiques nestoriens (Paris, 
1895), pp. 288- 3 27. 2r ' 

(7) Rabban bar 'Idta (died 612) 

A biography of this Nestorian monk, written by John the 
Persian some time after 66 1, survives only in a verse resume oT 
the eleventh century. Among other things it contains an 
interesting allusion to the battle between Heraclius and 
Chosroes near Nineveh in 627. 

Edition and English translation: E. A. W. Budge, The Histories of 
Rabban Hormizd the Persian and Rabban bar Idta, 2 vols. 

24. Cf. J. Gribomont, 'Documents sur les origines de l'£glise maronite'. 

Parole de I Orient , V (1974), 95-132. 

25. So correctly (sec ROC, XVI (1911), 281) Nau on p. 767 ofhis edition, but 
on p. 69S he describes the life as 'Jacobite'. On purely internal grounds it can 
hardly be a text ofjacobite provenance (see R. Parct in REB, XV (1957), 72), 
although ii does happen to survive also in a Jacobite manuscript (unknown to 
N'au). Harvard syr. 59, written in Midyat in 1857. 

»6. Cf. Ficy, Auyrie ckretienne, III, pp. 56-9. 


(London, 1902), I, pp. 1 10-202 (text), II (Part I), pp. 163-304 
(translation). 27 

(8) Rabban Hormizd (sixth/seventh century) 

There are three lives in Syriac available in print, all of which are 
full of legendary material : 

(a) Prose life, attributed to the monk Shem'un, disciple of R, 
Yozadaq (seventh century). 

Edition and English translation: E. A. W. Budge, The Histories of R. 
Hormizd, I, pp. 3—109 (text), II (Part 1), pp. 3—1-60 

(b) verse, by Emmanuel of Beth Garmai (died 1080). 

Edition: G. Cardahi, Liber Thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum (Rome, 

1875), pp. 142-5- 
German summary: G. Hoffman, Auszuge aits syrischen Ahtenpersischer 
M'drtyrer (Abhandlungen fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes, 
VII. 3 [Leipzig 1880D, pp. 19-22 (cf. 179-82). 

(c) verse, by Sergius of Azerbaijan (sixteenth century?). 

Edition: E. A. W. Budge, The Life of Rabban Hormizd and the 
Foundation of his Monastery at Al-Kosh (Scmitistische Studien, II- 
III [Berlin 1894I). 

English translation: Budge, The Histories of R. Hormizd, Part II. 28 

(9) George (died 615) 

The life of this martyr, a convert from Zoroastrianism (his 
original name was Mihramgushnasp), is the work of the great 
Nestorian theologian Babai (died soon after 628}. Babai also 
wrote the life of another convert from Zoroastrianism who was 
martyred, Christina (Yazdoi) of Beth Garmai, but only the 
proemium of this survives. 29 

Edition: P. Bedjan, Histoire de Mar Jabalaha (Paris, 1895), pp. 

German translation: O. Braun, Ausgewahtte Akten persischer Martyrer 

27. CI. J. M. Fiey, 'Autourde la biographic dc Bar £»*, L'Orient Syrien, XI 
(1966), t-16, and Assyrie chretierme, II, pp. 269-83. 

28. Cf. Fiey, Assyrie chrelienne, II, pp. 534-4 1 . 

29. Ed. P. Bedjan, in Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, IVfParis, 1894), pp. 201-7. 


(Bibliothck der Kirchcnvater, 22 [Kempten/Munich 1915]), 
pp. 221-77. German summary in G. Hoffmann, Auszuge aus 
syrischen Akten persischer Martyrer, pp. 91-1 15 ; French summary 
in J. B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientate (Paris, 1902), pp. 625—34. 

(10) Ssho'sabran (died 620/1) 

The life of this martyr, another convert from Zoroastrianism, 
was written by the patriarch Isho'yahb III, and is addressed to 
the monks of the monastery of Beth 'Abe. The work is almost 
exclusively concerned with his trial. The text, of which the end is 
lost, survives in Vat. syr. 161. 

Edition and French summary: J. B. Chabot, 'Histoire de jesus- 
sabran, ecrite parjesus-yab d'Adiabene', Nouvelles Archives des 
Missions scientijiaues et litteraires' , VII (1897), 485— 584. 30 


(1) Synodicon orientate 

The acts of two seventh -century Nestorian synods, held in 605 
and 676, as well as a letter from the patriarch George to a 
chorepiscopus Menas, written in 680, are preserved in the late 
eighth-century collection of Nestorian synods known as the 
Synodicon orientale. There also survives an account of the 
assembly of Nestorian bishops that was summoned in 612 by 
Chosroes II (at the instigation of Gabriel of Sinjar) in order to 
hold a public dispute with the 'Theopaschites' (i.e. Syrian 

Edition: J. B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale (Paris, 1902), pp. 

207-44, 562-80 (assembly of 612). 
French translation: Chabot, op. cit., pp. 471-514, 580-96 

(assembly of 612). 

(a) Maronite fragment on the Sixth Council 

This short acephalous text, preserved in BM. Add. 7192 of the 
late seventh or eighth century, gives reasons why 'we' (probably 
the Maronttes) cannot accept the Sixth Council. 

Edition and English translation (with commentary) : S. P. Brock, 'A 
30. Cf. Fiey, Assyrie chretitnne, I, pp. 46-7. 


Syriac I ragmen L on the Sixth Council', OC, LVII (1973), 


{ 1 ) West Syrian 

A survey of the West Syrian canonical literature of the seventh 
century will be found in A. Voobus, Syrischc Kanonessammlungen. 
Ein Beitrag zur Qjiellenkunde, I: Westsyrische Originaturkunde . I, A 
(CSCO Subsidia 35 [Louvain, 1970]}, pp. 190-223 and I, B {CSCO 
Subsidia 38 [Louvain, 1970]), pp. 273-99. Particularly 
important is the figure of Jacob of Edessa (died 708). 

(2) East Syrian 

Twenty-five legal decisions of the patriarch Henanisho (died 
699/70) are published (with German translation) by E. Sachau, 
Syrische Rechtsbucher, II (Berlin, 1908), pp. 1—51. Twenty-two 
canons on inheritance by Simeon of Rev Ardashir also belong to 
the seventh century; these canons, which were originally written 
in Persian, will be found in Sachau, Syrische Rechtsbiicher , 111 
(Berlin, 1914), pp. 203-53 (cf- Pp- 345-62). 3I 


( 1 ) Colloquium of the patriarch John with an Emir of the Hagarenes 
This is preserved in the form of a letter from the Syrian 
Orthodox Patriarch John I, to be found in BM. Add. 17193 of 
874. The colloquium took place on Sunday g May of an 
unspecified year; Nau took this to be 639, but according to 
Lammens the date should be 644 <JA, 11 ser., XIII (1919), 

Edition and French translation: F. Nau, 'Un colloque du patriarchc 
Jean avec Pemir des Agareens', JA, 11 ser., V (1915), 225-79 
(text: pp. 248-56; translation: pp. 257-64). 

{2) Isho'yahb III (died 659) 

106 letters by the energetic East Syrian patriarch Isho 'yahb III 
31. Cf. J. Partsch, 'Neuc Rcchtsquellcn der nestorianischen Kirchc', 
Zeitxhrijl der Savigny-Stijlungfur Rechlswissenschaft, XXXI II ( 1 909), 355-98. 

survive, arranged chronologically in three parts. Though mostly 
concerned with ecclesiastical affairs, a number of passages 
throw interesting light on church-state relations under early 
Islam. The collection survives in Vat. syr. 157 of the late eighth 
century (and some more recent apographs); there is a lacuna at 
the head of Ep. I and at the end of Ep. XII. 

edition: R. Duval, Isho' yahb patriarchae III Liber Epistularum [CSCO 
Ser. Syri 1 1 [Louvain, 1904]). 

Translations: Latin in Duval, op. cit. (CSCO Ser. Syri 1 2 [Louvain, 
1905]) (with index of names). The Syriac text and English 
translation of the first part, widi letters written while Isho 
'yahb was bishop of Mosul (i.e. before 628) will be found in 
P. Scott-Momcrieff, The Book of Consolations, or Pastoral Epistles 
of Mar Isho 'yahb of Kuphtana in Adiabene, 2 vols. (London, 
1904). " 

(3) George I 
or a letter, dated 680, by the East Syrian patriarch George I, see 


(4) Athanasius II 
'here is a collection of canonical decisions by the Syrian 

Orthodox patriarch Athanasius II (684—6) which bears the 
(secondary) title 'Letter of the blessed patriarch Athanasius to 
the effect that Christians should not partake of the sacrifices that 
the Mhaggraye now have'. 

Edition and French translation: F. Nau, 'Litterature canonique 
syriaque inedite', ROC, XIV (1909), 128-30. 


It has already been mentioned that John of Phenek (above, I 
(14)), writing in north-east Mesopotamia in the 690s, ended his 
work on an apocalyptic note. The end of the seventh century and 
the early eighth century was a period of tension that gave birth to 

3s. Cf. W. G. Young, 'The Church of the East in 650 ,\.D.', Indian Church 
History Review, II (1968), 55-71, and Patriarch, Shah and Caliph (Rawalpindi, 
•974)1 PP- 85-gg;J. M. Fiev, 'Isho 'yawlc Grand. Viedu Calholicosnestoricn 
Isho "yaw III d'Adiabene (580-659)', OCP, XXXV (1969), 305-33. XXXVI 

(i97°). 5~4 e - 



apocalyptic literature within the fold of all four major religions, 
Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism. There are a 
number of Christian texts available in Syriac, of which the first is 
of particular interest. 

( i ) Apocalypse of Methodius of Olympus 

This apocalypse, which enjoyed a great popularity in the 
medieval west, reached Latin (ed. Sackur) by way of a Greek 
version fed. Istrin) that was itself originally translated from 
Syriac. The complete Syriac text, to be found in Vat. syr. 58 of 
1564, has not yet been published, and only fragments from 
other Syriac sources are available in print. The title of the 
apocalypse as preserved in Vat. syr. 58 specifically mentions 
Sinjaras the region of its origin, and in the course of the text it is 
stated that Arab rule will come to an end before the 'tenth week' 
is up (i.e. 622 + 7o = a.d. 692 ). 3:t The writer himself is clearly living 
in the last apocalyptic week (i.e. 685-92), and one of his primary 
interests is in rumours of greatly increased taxation, when even 
the dead will have to pay poll-tax. It seems very likely that the 
author is writing shortly before Abdulmalik's census of 692, on 
the basis of which tax reforms were made in north 
Mesopotamia.' 1 ' 1 The author looks for a restoration of Byzantine 
power, and foretells the recapture of Jerusalem by a Byzantine 

Editions and translations: F. Nau, 'Revelations et legendes: 
Methodius-Clement-Andronicus', J A, u scr., IX (1917), 
A 1 5— 52 (cf. 455-61) (incomplete text taken from Paris Syr. 350 
and Cambridge Add. 2054); extracts from Ps. Methodius are 
also to be found in Solomon of Bosra's Book of the Bee 
(Nestorian, thirteenth century; ed. E. A. W. Budge [Oxford 
1886]), chaps. 53-5. All these are Nestorian, whereas the 
unpublished Vat. syr, 58 is West Syrian. M 

33. By this time the a.h. reckoning was in general use (e.g. BM. Add. 14666, 
fo. 56, of A.D. 682/3, dated a.g. 993 and a.h. 63), and P.J. Alexander is misled in 
liis dates, basing them on the conquest of Iraq: see his 'Medieval apocalypses 
as historical sources', AHR, LXXII1 (1968), 1001, 

34. See D. C. Dennett, Conversion and Pol! Tax in early Islam (Cambridge 
Mass., 1950), pp. 45-6. 

35. Cf. M. Kmosko, 'Das Ratsel des Ps. Methodios', B, VI (1931), 573-99; 
K. Czegledy, 'Monographs on Syriac and Muhammadan sources in the literary 


(2) Apocalypse ofEsdras 

Probably dependent on Ps. Methodius is an 'Apocalypse on the 

kingdom of the Ishmaelites'. 

Editions and translations: F. Baethgen, in Zeitschrift Jiir die 
alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, VI (1866), 199-211 (German), 
and J. B. Chabot, 'L'apocalypse d'Esdras touchant le 
royaume des Arabes', Revue semitique, II (1894), 242-50 (text), 
333-47 (French translation). 

{3) Poem on Alexander the Great 

A poem of nearly 800 lines, on the subject of Alexander and the 
gates which he built against Gog and Magog, is wrongly 
attributed to Jacob of Serugh (died 521). According to Hunnius 
it must have been written between 628 and 637. It includes 
veiled references to the campaigns of Heraclius and Chosroes II. 

Edition and German translation: C. Hunnius, 'Das syrische 
Alexanderlied', ZDMG, LX (1906), 169-209, 558-89, 
802-2 i. 36 

English translation: E. A. W. Budge, The History of Alexander the 
Great (Cambridge, 1899), pp. 164-200, 37 

(4) Ps. Ephrem, On the last judgement 

Sections 3-5 of this work contain predictions concerning the 
Arabs and Gog and Magog. 

Edition and Latin translation: T. J. Lamy, S. Ephraemi Hymni et 
Sermones, III {Malines, 1889), cols. 189-98." 

(5) Apocalypse of John the Less 

Probably from north Mesopotamia and dating from the end of 

remains of M. Kmosko', Acta Orientalia, IV (1954), 36-9; P.J. Alexander, 
'The Syriac original of Ps. Methodius' Apocalypse', Proceedings of the twenty- 
seventh International Congress of Orientalists (Wiesbaden, 197 1). 1 06-7 . 

36. For earlier editions see S. P. Brock, 'The Laments of the Philosophers 
over Alexander in Syriac', Journal of Semitic Studies, XV (1970), 317- 

37. Cf. K. Czegledy, 'The Syriac legend concerning Alexander the Great 1 , 
Acta Orientalia, VII (1957'. 246-9. and 'Monographs', pp. 35-6. 

38. Cf. K. Czegledy, 'Monographs', pp. 34-5. 


the seventh or early eighth century, this short apocalypse is 
preserved m an eighth-century manuscript. 39 

Edition and English translation:}. R. Harris, The Gospel of the XII 
Apostles together with the Apocalypses of each one of them 
(Cambridge, 1900). pp. 34-9 (translation), ls'-ai* (text). 

(6) Bahira legend 

According to this legend, which in its present form can hardly be 
earlier than the eleventh century, the prophet Mohammed 
received instruction from a Christian monk, Bahira (or 
according to a tradition known to Mas'udi, Sergius). In its Syria* 
form the work is in three parts: 1 , the meeting of the supposed 
author, Isho yahb, with Bahira, together with an account of the 
hitter s vision on mount Sinai and his visit to Maurice and 

Chosroes II; 2, the meeting between Bahira and Mohammed -3 
an apocalypse. It is possible that the text may incorporate some 
early material. The legend is also to be found in Arabic (ed 

Edition and English translation; R. Gottheil, 'A Christian Bahira 
legend', Zettschrift fur Assyriologie , XIII (1898), 189-242, XIV 
(1899), 202-52. 

The Oriental Institute, 

39. Now Harvard syr. 93 (Formerly Harris syr. 85). 


The Unction of Emperors in Late 

Byzantine Coronation Ritual 



The anointing of emperors (Kaisersalbung) in the late Byzantine 
coronation ritual formed part of the subject of an often cited 
article by Professor George Ostrogorsky in 1955. 1 The purpose 
of these few words is to re-examine the evidence for this practice 
and to suggest some different conclusions. 

Ostrogorsky argued that anointing with oil was never a part 
of the Byzantine coronation ceremony before the Fourth 
Crusade in 1204 and that all references to unction in the 
literature of the twelfth century should be interpreted in a 
figurative or metaphorical sense and not literally. Much the 
same arguments were advanced in greater detail by F. E. 
Brightman in 1 90 1 . But, as Brightman observed, 'it still remains 
difficult to say when the metaphorical use of xpt' cn ' passes into 
the literal'.- When Niketas Choniaics writes of the Emperor 

1. G. Ostrogorsky, 'Zur Kaisersalbung und Schilderhcbung im 
spStbyzaniinischen Kronungszcrcmonicl]', Hiitona, IV [Festschrift fiir Wilhchn 
Ensslin, 1955), 246-56 (reprinted in G. Ostrogorsky, Zur Byzantinhchen 
Geschichtt. Ausgewithtte kleine Schriften (Dx.rmna.dl, 1973), pp. 142-52). 

s. Ostrogorsky, op. cit., 246!. F. E. Brightman, 'Byzantine Imperial 
Coronations', Journal of Tluotogical Studies, II (1901), 385. Cf. Aikatcrine 
Christophilopoulou, 'EKJLoyi}, Avnyipevait; Kai artiptq rob p~o(.ai>Ttvav 
aoroKptlTopoc (Athens, 1957), pp. i6gf. See also L.-P. Raybaud, Lt gouvemement 
et ['administration centrale de t'empire byiantin sous tes premiers Paleologues 
(125S-IJ54) (Paris, 1968), pp. 69-73, though the author seems to have been 
unaware of Ostrogorsky's article. The essay by I. Goschew, 'Zur Frage dcr 
Kronungszercmonien und die zercmonielle Gewandung der Byzantinischen